Posts Tagged ‘George R.R. Martin’


George R.R. Martin

“You need to read everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers. Read history, historical fiction, biography. Read mystery novels, fantasy, SF, horror, mainstream, literary classics, erotica, adventure, satire. Every writer has something to teach you, for good or ill. (And yes, you can learn from bad books as well as good ones — what not to do).”

— quoted in “Inspirational writing quotes by 15 celebrated authors


 

Old Mars cover

(Old Mars, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, eds. Bantam, 2013, 486 pp., $28.00)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

The number of science fiction short story collections has exploded in recent years. Formerly, there were a relatively few “year’s best” collections of stories that had already been published in science fiction magazines. But roughly two decades ago that began to change. “Themed” sci-fi short story collections began to appear in large numbers: detective/noir; alien sex; time travel; alternate history (alternate presidents, alternate Kennedys); alternate futures (including one collection with advanced technologies, but no Internet); “positive” sci-fi; and the list goes on. Another change is that the stories in many of these collections had not already been published, and were written specifically for these anthologies.

This is somewhat unfortunate, because formerly (as in the “year’s best” collections) the stories had jumped two selection hurdles, the first to make it into magazines, the second to make it into an anthology. As well, the editors choosing the stories for “year’s best” anthologies had a plethora of material to choose from.

In themed collections, the situation is different. The stories in them, when written specifically for the anthologies, only have one selection hurdle to jump, and the editors often have to actively solicit contributions. So, at least occasionally, quality suffers. But this is much less of a problem with themed anthologies such as Old Mars, which has well established, well respected editors, and features stories by established writers.

Old Mars, as the title and cover suggest, is a collection of stories set in the romantic worlds portrayed by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, and (in the sense that the anthology deals with “lost worlds”), H. Rider Haggard. Thus the Mars depicted in Old Mars has canals, a breathable atmosphere, humanoid Martians, terrifying beasts, cities fallen to ruin, booby-trapped royal tombs, and swashbluckling heroes–with, as additional backdrop, an ocean- and swamp-covered Venus populated by telepathic Venusians.

The most well known authors represented in Old Mars are Allen Steele and Mike Resnick. And this anthology seems an ideal vehicle for Resnick, who has written an impressive number of  sly, tongue-in-cheek tall tales, such as the “Santiago” and “Inner Frontier” stories. He doesn’t disappoint here.

Even though it’s well done, Old Mars is not for all sci-fi fans. If your interests lie in space opera, hard sci-fi, social sci-fi, cyberpunk, steampunk, or military sci-fi, you probably won’t like Old Mars. But if you’re a fan of Burroughs, Bradbury, or pulp or “golden age” sci-fi, you probably will.

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Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.

Free Radicals front cover

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Tuf Voyaging cover

(Tuf Voyaging, by George R.R. Martin, 2013, Bantam, $16.00, 440 pp.)

reviewed by Zeke Teflon

Bantam has re-released George R.R. Martin’s 1986 fix-up sci-fi novel, Tuf Voyaging. (Fix-up novels are comprised of pre-existing pieces, often short stories and/or novellas, fit together to make a coherent whole.) It’s loosely based on biblical tales and characters, with the title character’s, Havilund Tuf’s, seedship vessel bearing the name “Ark,” and with chapters titled “Loaves and Fishes,” “Call Him Moses,” and “Manna from Heaven.”

Tuf Voyaging, however, is not a biblical parody. (If you want that, your best bet is G. Richard Bozarth’s Bible Tales for Ages 18 and Up.) Rather, it’s a social science fiction tale focusing on the perils of runaway population growth and religious dogmatism. Martin is quite open about this. Among other things, the action in Tuf Voyaging largely revolves around a grossly overpopulated but technologically advanced planet, S’uthlam. (Reverse the letters, transpose the “t” and “h,” take out the mandatory “sci-fi apostrophe,” and . . . well, you get the idea.)

Despite this grim subtext, the book is light reading in the tall-tale tradition; its tone is very similar to that of Mike Resnick’s “Inner Frontier” stories. It’s also similar in that it has extravagant, often-amusing caricatures rather than fully developed characters. In contrast to the panoply of grotesques in Resnick’s works, in Tuf Voyaging the only character worth mentioning is Tuf himself. And the reader only sees Tuf’s surface: logical, sarcastic,  almost eerily calm and restrained, yet quirky (a vegetarian gourmand who loves beer and cats)–with all this presented via a distant third-person point of view. In short, Tuf is a cardboard character–and one entirely appropriate to a tall tale.

Those familiar with Martin’s other more famous works, and expecting an intricate plot and well drawn characters, will be disappointed in Tuf Voyaging. But those happy with a simple but amusing tall tale, with a social/political message with which they’ll probably agree (any sane person would), will enjoy the book.

Recommended.

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reviewer Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia.

Free Radicals front cover

 

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